Autistic child's life saved after falling in river

10-year-old Owen Skalandis with non-verbal autism was sent to the hospital after he fell into the water along the Manistee Riverwalk Saturday.

A 10-year-old boy with non-verbal autism was sent to the hospital after he fell into the water along the Manistee Riverwalk Saturday.

Owen Skalandis was walking with his 24-year-old caregiver along the river when something went horribly wrong.

â??It's just a really dramatic scenario going onâ?¦ things are happening really fast,â?? said Chief David Bachman, City of Manistee Director of Public Safety.

Rescue crews jumped into action after they got a call saying Owen was in the water.

Fire Captain Mark Cameron put on a life vest and made the plunge into the cold water.

â??My part of jumping in the water and rescuing the young man was just one little tiny piece of it. I was able to get in there, grab a hold of him. I had help from another crew, city PD that towed me in with a rope. After that I helped assist him up onto the dock and after that paramedics took him in,â?? said Manistee Fire Department Captain Mark Cameron.

Owen was first taken to West Shore Medical Center, and later to DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids for treatment.

From the time crews got to the scene to when Owen was at the hospital, just 15 minutes had passed, although it felt more like a lifetime for all those involved.

â??This was something we feared for a long time. With autism a lot of children tend to want to flee and that is the case for Owen. He gets an urge and he wants to go,â?? said Owen's Aunt Erica Haggstrom.

Rescuers say Owen wanted to get closer to the water, and his 24-year-old caregiver tried pulling him back by his jacket, but he got away.

â??We just want to say thank you very much to everyone that helped and acted fast and saved his life.â??

One of the reasons crews were on the scene so fast is because they were training on Saturday just down the road from where Owen went in the water.

When rescuers got to Owen, they say he was face down in the water and unresponsive and could have very well lost his life.

â??No two water rescues are the same. You can plan for water rescues but every time you get there all the circumstances are different,â?? said Chris Jeffries, Manistee Firefighter and Paramedic.

Now that Owen is safe in the hospital he's showing signs of improvement.

â??He's already tried ripping his wires out and took out his nose tube so he's definitely getting some of his spunk back,â?? said Haggstrom.

Real Life Living Services where Owen's caregiver is employed was contacted. They will be conducting an internal investigation.